Heading into the start of a new year provides an excellent opportunity to hear from the people in the tasty trenches of Colorado’s burgeoning culinary scene. Feed Media helped us plug into food and beverage predictions from talented Denver and Boulder chefs, owners, beverage and hospitality directors, general managers and more. Just a warning, these observations might make you hungry and thirsty, but it will give you a cornucopia of ideas for group gatherings in 2018!
Zeppelin Station is a 100,000-square-foot market hall and creative workspace set to open in early 2018 near the new RTD light rail station at 38th and Blake. Justin Anderson, director of hospitality development for Zeppelin Station, expects ethnic cuisine to go regional. “Think southern Indian cuisine from Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, offering menus formulated from generations of recipes specific to the region. Israeli and other Middle Eastern food will be a trend over the next year or so as well.”
Anderson also predicts that menus will go from offering many choices to reflecting “the absolute best one or two things that a chef creates” and that “BBQ mash-ups” are popping up. Korean and North African cuisine is being merged with regional BBQ styles from the Midwest and South, creating “unexpected flavors,” he says.
Mary Nguyen, executive chef/owner of Olive & Finch also expects a larger focus on global, ethnic tastes, sustainable and earth-friendly dishes, and fragrant, floral flavors. “Personally, I'm really loving Filipino food right now and have been experimenting with Middle Eastern spices like harissa, ras el hanout, cardamom and tahini,” she says. “I’m also thinking about elderflower, lavender and hibiscus in our food and beverages.”
Dan Kane, executive chef of Del Frisco’s Grille in Cherry Creek, joins Anderson in believing restaurants are becoming less complicated in what they are offering but with more elegance and attentive and personalized service. “I’m seeing a trend to elevating all aspects of a restaurant, from food to ambience to service, and really considering closely what can and should be done to enhance the guest’s experience,” he says.
It won’t be all about the main dish says Mason Rodgers, chef for Max’s Wine Dive. “I predict chefs will be experimenting with more flavorful vegetables to serve with protein dishes. In fact, on our new menu we feature a crab and cauliflower cake stack that is served with a roasted cauliflower cake, lump crab and a sweet potato crisp. The new flavors these vegetables add to our shareables and our entrées are a hit with customers,” he says.
Michael Gibney, chef/partner of Emmerson in Boulder, expects expanding use of sea plants, tea and offals (entrails and internal organs of animals) and reimagining of French classics. Sea plants like nori, kombu, dulse and wakame are “packed with umami, super-healthy, and add that bit of je ne sais quoi that I’m always after,” he says. “We’ll see tea used in more culinary applications (brines, marinades, etc.), and I really hope we’ll see a continued revival of surf and turf, especially obscure, unexpected sea and land pairings, which are my favorite.”
Get ready for more beer in cocktails and a larger presence of Colorado wines on menus. “Even though I love my wine, I predict we’ll see more and more cocktails using beer as an ingredient. Some of my favorites in this trend have been margaritas with Corona, some great brunch-style beermosas and beer Bloody Marys,” says Gavin Berry, level 1 sommelier and general manager of Del Frisco’s Grille in Cherry Creek. “I think we’ll also see a really significant increase in wine lists featuring a Colorado section as our state’s wineries are coming into their own.”
California wines will continue to play a big role, especially with the expanding presence of heritage blends, notes Brent Karlicek, beverage director for Postino. “We'll see support for historic vineyards planted with turn-of-the-century favorites like Carignan, Valdigue, Mourvèdre and Syrah. Our current favorite at Postino is Redwood Alley, a complex red blend of old vine fruit from Mendocino.”
Kendra Anderson, owner of bar helix, sees a “continued growth in guests’ exploration of bitters, specifically in the amari category.” She says, “I’ve noticed that lots of people have fallen in love with Fernet, and I think they’ll want to keep sampling other spirits and cocktails with similar flavor profiles."